WLIC2021 experience: So proud to be (almost) a librarian!

  • During the closing ceremony of 2021 IFLA WLIC online event, Gerald Leitner, IFLA’s Secretary General, proposed three questions for those who attended to reflect about this amazing event. What did you learn? What changed your mind? What will you do next? I’ve chosen to answer these questions as a grant awardee’s contribution to the IFLA ARL Section blog. But first, I will tell a bit about my trajectory.

Where do I come from?

On January 2020 I researched the development of critical information literacy (CIL) field in Brazil for my thesis, and found interesting differences between the CIL field in the US and Brazil. With my advisor, Gilda Olinto de Oliveira (a member of the permanent faculty of the postgraduate program in information science at the School of Communication of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro), I proposed a communication for the 2020 IFLA WLIC that was initially to take place in Dublin. Well, the pandemic changed these plans and we all adapted, as librarians do. So it was a delightful surprise when not only the paper was chosen but also I got the ARL grant!

Although I work with a lot of librarians, I had never worked in a library so far. I kept explaining that I am not a librarian, because in Brazil we have to get a four-year university degree and register at a class association to be a librarian. When the ARL Section Chair, Mrs. Gulcin Cribb informed me about a meeting to discuss contributions from country’s university libraries trends, I panicked and felt like I was an impostor. Thankfully, my many librarian friends including Jorge do Prado, president of FEBAB (the Brazilian library association equivalent of IFLA) and its CBBU members (local equivalent of the IFLA ARL Section) gave me reading references, pointed out important topics and revised the document I presented. Even before the event started I already learned a lot about university libraries, about IFLA and the ARL section and mainly about “working together”, the IFLA Congress theme this year.

What did I learn?

Working together was a very fortunate choice, matching IFLA President Christina Mackenzie’s warm vibe. The entire event took a massive group effort. The sessions involved people from several countries and backgrounds, reflecting on very diverse realities, all presenting their challenges and solutions to the most varied problems. From personal data protection to fighting disinformation, from adapting physical spaces to sanitary needs to rebuilding a community after a disaster, from LGBTQIA+ inclusion to artificial intelligence literacy teaching, everyone in the sessions showed alert, creative and caring professionals working to inform, educate and welcome their public.

Of course there is a lot of inequity regarding accessibility, infrastructure, funding and security issues that impact libraries, universities and research in different ways. If a library has – literally – no windows, it can’t open during the pandemic. If the personnel don’t have an Internet connection at home, it is impossible to work remotely. Isolation during long periods of time increase further these asymmetries. Independently of the difficulties a pandemic brings, and we now know they are important, the basic conditions for a library to fulfill its mission should be a concern of all librarians, and maybe even an IFLA discussion topic. This is why I was so pleased to hear WLIC 2021 was the most diverse and inclusive edition ever, with solidarity fees being offered by those who are financially favored in addition to attendance grants.

I could see that this sense of togetherness surpassed the expectations and revealed how the library field is a wide and vibrant community of people all working towards the same goal: to provide access to information and allow for knowledge production and human development to happen in the very best conditions possible.

What changed my mind? What will I do next?

As for the two other questions, I changed my mind about… not being a librarian! I now think I am! Not only do I share these ideals and goals, but I build my research around finding examples of ways to teach information literacy in a political, social justice oriented way that allows for gender (and other) stereotypes to be deconstructed in addition to developing a critical relationship with information. Of course, to be fully accredited I will have to take courses, get a degree and register at the Council, which takes us to the last question, what will I do next? I will enroll in Librarianship college next semester 😀 Now please wish me luck!

Andréa Doyle: andrea@hibrida.art.br
Andréa Doyle is a PhD in Information Science from Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro / Post-Graduate Program in Information Science (PPGCI IBICT/UFRJ)

Further references:
– Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro: https://ufrj.br/en/
– Post-Graduate Program in Information Science: http://www.ppgci.ufrj.br/en/